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Jensen

Alan and Richard Jensen's first car was an old Austin Seven Chummy, which they converted in 1928 into a low-slung two seater. The Standard Motor Co asked them to work their magic on a Standard and it went into production at Avon coachworks. More special Standard Avons followed, then Wolseley Hornet specials. The Jensen brothers became joint managing directors at coachbuilders W J Smith & Sons, then took over the firm, changed its name to Jensen Motors Ltd in 1934, as a specialist body builder. Actor Clark Gable ordered a special-bodied Ford V8 sports tourer, the first 'Jensen', and others wanted a replica, but Ford would not supply the chassis and engines. On a visit to the UK, Edsel Ford met the Jensen brothers, and allowed 20 sports tourers to be built by Jensen with modified Ford V8 engines, as Jensen-Fords. A new low-slung car followed in 1936, the S-Type. In 1937 Jensen built lightweight JNSN lorries for the Reynolds Tube Co. They also designed the Jen-Tug small artic lorry, based on the Ford Ten. 1938 saw the Nash-engined Model H. Production ceased in 1939, and the firm turned to war work. The first new postwar car in 1946-49 was the PW (postwar). The new Austin Sheerline was seen as a copy of the PW. Leonard Lord of Austin placated Jensen by supplying Austin six-cylinder engines for the PW, also used in the Jensen Interceptor sports car. Jensen then built the Austin A40 sports, Austin Gipsy and Austin Healey 100. A new modern design was the Jensen 541; 225 built in 1954-59, plus 200 of the faster 541R in 1957-60 and 108 of the enlarged 541S in 1961-63. A six-litre Chrysler V8 engine powered the C-V8, of which 70 were built in 1962-63. The C-V8 Marks II and III had larger V8s. 250 of the Mark II were built in 1964-65 and 141 of the Mark III in 1965-66. From 1966-71 the Interceptor and FF were among the most desirable cars on the road. They had imposing styling by Touring of Italy, with a striking goldfish-bowl rear window which opened as a tailgate. Initially Vignale built the steel bodies in Italy. 'FF' stood for Ferguson Formula, the four wheel drive system, and it also had Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock brakes, but only 320 FFs were built. The Interceptor had the V8 engine, but not the FF system, and had a shorter bonnet. The Interceptor had a single air vent behind the front wheel arch; the FF had two vents. 5,472 Interceptor coupes were built, and 267 convertibles, plus 60 of the scarce hardtop coupe. In the 1960s Jensen finished and trimmed Volvo P1800 and Sunbeam Tiger bodies, but in 1966 Richard and Alan Jensen left the company. In 1970 Kjell Qvale bought the company and rushed the Jensen-Healey into production, but it was a failure, so he re-visited the Interceptor, but the oil crisis spelled the end for big US engines. The market preferred the cheaper and better-built Jaguar XJ6 and XJ-S. Jensen went into receivership in 1976.
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